Nation & World

They rescued 700 guinea pigs. It could turn into 1,300 and cost $120,000

Screen capture of a video posted by Los Angeles Giunea Pig Rescue.
Screen capture of a video posted by Los Angeles Giunea Pig Rescue.

Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue is in the midst of a massive rescue operation for a group of furry little pigs they’ve dubbed the NorCal 700.

The nonprofit was contacted by an animal control group in Northern California for help with a hoarding situation, according to a live video posted on the rescue’s Facebook page. In the video, posted last week and viewed more than 627,000 times, the group estimated there were several hundred guinea pigs at the location.

The actual number was closer to 700, according to an update on the post.

“We thought we could do it in a day,” Julie Picks, vice president of Valley Guinea Pig Rescue, told McClatchy.

Caring for that many animals may cost upwards of $120,000 over the next year, Picks told McClatchy, and will include multiple trips back to the location, plus veterinary care, medicine and food and housing for the pigs, whose numbers continue to grow.

Separating the pigs so they couldn’t continue to breed was the first job. Male guinea pigs can reproduce at three weeks old; females at four weeks. Mothers can get pregnant one hour after giving birth, Picks said.

Many of the females (the group estimates it at close to 80 percent) were already pregnant and continued to have babies. Fifteen babies were born on just one day last week, according to a post from the group. The final count may be as many as 1,300 pigs by next year.

Any sick animals – like the 70 babies that had ringworm, shown in a picture posted on Facebook by the rescue group – were given medical care.

“We started bathing them with medicated shampoo and got through about half of them finishing up tomorrow and they will be done with the first round of treatment. They will then need antifungal cream twice a day on the affected areas,” the caption on the photo reads.

The group has been giving updates on the NorCal 700 via Facebook videos.

So far, more than 400 of the pigs have been relocated to southern California, where they are being kept in a horse barn, according to one video from the group. The group is accepting donations online and through an Amazon wish list and looking for grants to help pay for the rescue.

Now comes the job of finding the guinea pigs new homes.

There is a group of pigs that is ready for adoption, in pairs.

“Guinea pigs are extremely social animals and we only adopt out a single pig if you already have an existing pig in the home,” the group said.

But Pick told McClatchy it will be difficult to find homes for as many as 1,300 pigs.

There are a growing number of guinea pig rescue groups around the country, according to the Los Angeles Times. Typically, the animals are “surrendered by owners, plucked from shelters, fished out of trash cans or simply abandoned in homes and yards when owners move on,” Julia Hinrichs told the paper. Hinrichs runs a rescue group in Texas.

The northern California animal control group reached out to more than a dozen rescue groups to help the pigs’ owner, who had become overwhelmed by the sheer number of animals. The Los Angeles Guinea Pigs Rescue was one of two that replied and the only one able to help, according to the animal control officer working the case.

The animal control group did not want to be specifically identified by name and location in order to protect the ongoing case, but said that no criminal charges have been brought again the owner, who is fully and voluntarily cooperating with the rescue.